The church that saved my life


Three and a half years ago a newly pregnant Leanne moved to the small town of Ada, OK sight unseen.  As I unloaded boxes of towels and dishes into our “new” kitchen, which featured an oven with Lamborghini doors, I was full of thoughts of “What have I done?!”

I knew no one in town and no one knew me.  I had no job and nothing to do, I was pregnant and set up to raise my child far from anyone who could show me how.   Kel’s ministry is supported by 10 churches, and so we knew that our new home church would have to be found within this group.  Two days after I moved to town I stepped through the doors of H2O church, on the corner of main street, for the first time.

I had no idea at that day but this church would become my lifeline and the reason I have been able to survive and thrive as an Oklahoma transplant.

At first I was nitpicky, wow, I used to be such shameful a church critic.  The teaching was video and they did an altar call at the end of the service.  I’d never attended an altar call church and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but my options were limited so I decided to dig in and make it work for me.  I started networking as a survival skill and soon had an invitation to a lifegroup that evening.

I stepped into this church that day focused on all that it could do to serve me.  I stood there today three years later reflecting of my knee jerk critiques and started to well up with tears.  I am so thankful that God was able to grow my shallow heart and teach me that church isn’t about meeting my needs, but providing a home and a support for my totally unique call to serve in God’s kingdom.  It has little do with with a building, teaching methods or worship styles and everything to do with a community of people being renewed and restored by a faithful and gracious God and then taking that love out the front doors with them to share with the world.

This church, these beautiful people I do life with have stepped in and saved me again and again.  They were the first on the scene when my daughter was born, overwhelming me with excitement as I drifted out of C-section recovery.  They were on my doorstep with a basket of road trip snacks as we set out for Michigan hours after my Mother’s death.  And they were by far the most vocal about encouraging me to follow the call to write and to share my story.

In this church my college ideas of what church should be have changed from what how church works to what we the church does.

So, Tiffany, Zac, Callie, Hannah, Brian, Joely, Jason, Cari, Kent, Jenae’, Amy, Scottie, Lauri, Ally, Dawn, Duty Girls, Gary, Lanita, Christy, Tyson and everyone else who calls our church home: Thank you for saving my life, for being Jesus to me as we grow to be more like him together.  If I am ever called away from Ada, a piece of my heart will always be in our church because I feel so forever woven into the fabric of our church.

If you’ve been hurt by church, too picky, overly critical or just plain aloof, my prayer for you is that you can heal and return to the body.  Come be the church with us, you don’t have to live in our town, the church is everywhere because Christ is alive in all of us.

  • Hannah

    It’s as if you were writing my thoughts, Leanne. How blessed we are, and how blessed I am to have you as a friend!

    • Megan at SortaCrunchy

      Hi Leanne! I came over this morning via your Twitter and RHE’s Sunday Superlatives. (LOVED the depression post. So, so true.) I was reading through your recent posts and had to stop and comment on this one. Tyson and Christy are dear, dear friends of ours. In fact, Christy introduced me to my husband and they lived across from us at married student housing at ECU when we were all newlyweds.

      I’ve read from afar about their church journey in the past few years in Ada, and I know H2O church is bringing life and healing and hope to so many. What fun to see how interconnected we all our (especially in Oklahoma, the Smallest of Small Worlds)!

      • leannepenny

        Thank you! It really is a small world, I actually noticed that you guys knew each other when I saw your book come out and then saw her at your release in OKC.

        She is so sweet and feisty and fun.. and her and Tyson’s journey thru church and adoption is inspirational to me. Blessed to have great people in our church family.